Thursday, May 31, 2012

Growing Old Overnight - What The Hell Is A Blu Ray?

Earmuffs, Gabe...

Parenthood is a 24/7 beating that makes you old.  Not wise or mature, OLD.  Wise people don't wear socks and sandals to a fancy place like the Olive Garden, and you rarely hear a mature person sniff twice then utter the phrase, "there's vomit in my hair again," placing no emphasis, ironic or otherwise, on the word again.

Make no mistake, there is a very fine line between mature and just plain old.  For my wife and I, that line sits smack dab on the threshold of the local Blockbuster.  Yes, the same bankruptcy-riddled Blockbuster that has been hemorrhaging cash and attempting to reinvent its business model because technology has rendered driving to a brick and mortar location to rent a DVD inconvenient and dated.

You know those conversations about how dramatically things have changed, and the basic activities of our youth that will be so foreign to our children that we will appear prehistoric when describing them?  Going to the store and physically renting a movie is one of those activities.

I know this because we recently went to Blockbuster to rent the first Lord of the Rings.  I'll repeat that, because I feel it bears repeating.  My wife and I went into the local Blockbuster, specifically to rent the first Lord of the Rings.  This is not the act of someone you'd categorize as wise or mature.  It's actually the act of someone you'd categorize as virgin, which is probably why I instinctively walked down the aisle waving my son over my head.  That's the sign language for, "Back away, Nerd, I am not one of you.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'll take my copy of Fellowship of the Ring and be on my way."

En route to the register, I spied with my tired old eye, a new release that really piqued my interest.  It turns out the romantic hero of our youth, Jack Dawson - of the Chippewa Falls Dawson's - has resurfaced to play none other than J. EDGAR HOOVER!  Well son of a bitch, looks like bedtime is getting pushed back to 9pm, because that poorly reviewed biopic is coming home with Daddy.

Had I been wearing my glasses I may have seen the disc was labeled Blu Ray.  Instead, some mouthy punk in need of a haircut let me know while he was ringing us up.  Apparently, at this particular location, new releases are ONLY available in Blu Ray.  Tough break for those of us without the requisite player.

The hippie basement-dweller at the register seemed equal parts surprised and amused that I didn't own a dual purpose gaming system.  No, I don't have a PS3, but find a PS2 and a copy of NCAA Football 2003 and I'll wear your young ass out!  Maybe I'll say next time.  This time I just took my copy of an 11 year old fantasy adventure film and shuffled quietly out the door.

The joke is on them.  I intend to return my movie late and use the dropbox.  Little trick I picked up back in '99.  You're never too old to be a rebel.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Struggle With (My) Baby Weight

If presented with the opportunity, I highly suggest you marry someone completely out of your league. It's fantastic. There are a few lifestyle changes involved, but jogging becomes bearable, and eventually you realize a breakfast of Pop-Tarts and Parliament Lights was never a recipe for success. Adopting Summer's eating and exercise habits turned out to be the gift that kept on giving. I felt better, looked better, and got to use my best shit-eating grin for all the suckers that speak loudly about the joy of being single and free, but stare daggers at me because I out-kicked my coverage. With my wife making literally every single dietary decision, there was no stopping me...

I know pregnancy is not the team endeavor we make it out to be. I fully understand that while we talk about shared experiences, the husband's role is purely support. At no point over our nine month journey did my skin revert to that of a thirteen year old chocolate addict, I didn't have to remain within a penguin sprint of the nearest pee receptacle for the better part of a year, and though it sounded great in theory, no, I did not give up alcohol as a display of solidarity.

Pregnancy is a lot of things, not the least of which is a wild freaking bummer for the women that host these eventual miracles. As a caring husband, I exercised moral support in the best way I knew how - by not exercising at all.

It turns out there is at least one thing that is absolutely NOT a bummer for a pregnant woman. Remember that SNL sketch where Chris Farley plays a Valley Girl eating fries at the mall? In pregnancy we call that Tuesday. I say "we" because eating like garbage is about the only inarguable tandem activity throughout the process.

The weight a husband gains over the course of his wife's pregnancy is often referred to as sympathy weight. I call mine a relapse. The eating that took place was the culinary version of what I imagine a drug binge looks like when an addict is given carte blanche by their sponsor.

"Hey heroine addict, want some heroine?"  
"Holy shit, I'd love some heroine..."

Words of advice to all the future fathers out there: DON'T DO IT!  IT'S A TRAP!

Believe it or not, I voiced my concern multiple times over the course of our nine month bender. Each time I was assured by "you know who" that this condition was temporary. As soon as the baby was born we would flip the switch, cut out all the bad food and get back in a work-out groove. Hook. Line. Sinker.

Seven week into parenthood, a significant portion of Summer's baby weight is sleeping next to me in something called a Boppy, while the rest has burned off naturally. Mine is sitting between my laptop and I as though we're siblings that wouldn't stop bickering on a family road trip. We're right back to being a hot girl and the pear-shaped fool that looks terrible in t-shirts.

I might exercise today if there is time, but someone has to watch Gabe while Summer knocks out her second workout of the day. It seems that getting in shape is no more a team endeavor than pregnancy.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

My Son The Bridge Builder

I am flying directly over the Grand Canyon on my way to Los Angeles, which is uniquely appropriate.

My one and only trip to the Grand Canyon was as a kid, with my little brother, Ben. Some time later, Ben would travel down an assortment of paths that would ultimately lead him to LA, estranged from our family, under the name Tye Mohawk.

Our intention is to meet up in LA, if only briefly, before our chosen lifestyles send us in typically opposite directions. Full disclosure - despite our diametrically opposed dispositions, I never stopped loving Ben...but I fucking hate Tye Mohawk.

The emotional distance we've had to traverse for this potential meeting to occur makes the historic natural void under my plane look like a pothole. By the age of 26 I had grown perfectly comfortable with the idea that I may never see my brother again. Some bridges burn too damn well, and with enough erosion, opposite sides of a canyon can seem unworthy of bridging.

I take responsibility for our relationship flatlining. I quit trying. He did too, but that's not the point. I'm the pragmatic, stable brother, and he's the needy emotional vagabond. I always knew that, but I guess at a certain point I got tired of doing the work for which I was better suited.

What ensued has essentially been a four year staring contest. No winner, no loser, no contact, nothing even slightly resembling a blink.

If not an outright bridge builder, my son has certainly provided a constructive environment in which a bridge could exist.

The day my son was born, I received an unexpected Facebook message. The name attached to it was Tye Mohawk, but the message was from Ben. I communicate with each of them largely through the exchange of specifically targeted four letter words, with distinctly different emotions conveyed. When a message contains the word "love" I know exactly which of his personas is behind it.

Given the distance between us over the past several years, I've never been less qualified to analyze my brother's motives. Maybe he recognizes some degree of wrongdoing and wishes to rectify past mistakes. Maybe he accepts no responsibility whatsoever, and simply feels the birth of my son is worthy of acknowledgment regardless of our personal differences. I don't know.

I do know that being a father supersedes everything else in my life. If I am going to pass on the best parts of myself to my son, I need to exercise those qualities at every turn. I need to be the big brother my parents taught me to be. I need to end the ridiculous staring contest. I need to blink and pick up the phone. After that we'll see.

Who knows? Maybe one day Gabe's uncle and I will take him to the Grand Canyon, and explain how he is the reason we can stand on the same side.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My New Favorite Holiday

It has been my experience that time doesn't necessarily heal all wounds, but combined with proper care, time allows most wounds to at least scab over so you don't walk around metaphorically bleeding all over the place and freaking out potential companions.

It was three days after my 13th birthday when I lost my mother. In the nearly seventeen years that have passed since, I have become increasingly comfortable with the void it left. This is probably due to a combination of factors; emotional maturity, editorial distance, and the unrelenting speed of life. You never get over the loss of a parent, but you get used to it.

Mother's Day has been the one black hole in the healing process. Birthdays and Christmases get easier, but Mother's Day always sucks when your Mother is dead. It would take something monumental to change that, wouldn't it?

Gabe's birth was the most emotional day of my life. I was all over the map - joyful, nervous, hopeful, terrified - it may be the closest I'll ever come to knowing what it feels like to give a shit about a Kardashian's love life. The second I laid eyes on my son, I finally understood my parents emotional investment in me. At no point over the course of the most reflective day of my life, did I feel sadness over my mother not being there. I was too busy feeling grateful for the people that stuck with me through the tough times and got me to this amazing day. Gabe's mother was the only mother on my mind.

When I asked Summer what she wanted to do for her first Mother's Day, the answer came without hesitation. She wanted to go fishing. Pack the fishing gear and our one month old into the car, drive to a lake, battle the Texas elements, AND reveal my complete lack of fishing acumen?  Are you sure you wouldn't rather have a girls day while I assume the burden of staying home with the baby and watching baseball? Nope. Off to the lake we went.

It's important to note that despite growing up on a farm in rural Iowa, I am the single worst fisherman in the United States of America. I don't know how to string a reel (or whatever the hell that process is called) and I'm not crazy about touching fish. What I am, however, is wildly efficient. Once my wife prepared a reel for me, and I messed it up, and she gave me another while she attempted to unwind the reel I jacked up, I promptly caught the biggest fish of the day and spent the rest of the day hanging out with my son.

It wasn't just my favorite Mother's Day in the last 16 years, it was the best, most fulfilling holiday I've ever experienced. That's a monumental change I can get used to.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Man's Best Friend?

Elvis has not left the building...but he's hanging by a thread.  Our dog's name has never been more appropriate.  Once the definitive heartthrob of his generation, our boxer is now the canine equivalent of a fat, sweaty, pill-popper with just enough lingering familiarity in his eyes to trigger the nostalgia that allows you to forgive the fact that he now does karate in ill-fitting jumpsuits.

When Elvis (the singer) was under the influence of pills, he disappointed fans by butchering the songs they loved.  When Elvis (the devil) was under the influence of baby-jealousy he responded by doing the same to a silver pair of flip-flops that Summer loved.  Had I let Summer respond the way she wanted, our Elvis would have wished for a fate as dignified as a heart-attack on the shitter.

I talked her into letting him live.  I had to.

Being an appropriately balanced parent and dog-owner is a challenge, but also a tremendous opportunity.  Here's why - dog people are the worst offenders of an annoying sub-culture that projects human qualities on their pets, and parents of young children are self-absorbed dipshits.  When properly executed, being a member of each group can mean striking a balance that minimizes the annoyance of both.

I have seen and heard numerous parents of young children cop a self-righteous attitude when a childless dog owner openly speaks about pet ownership as parenting.  As a dog owner with a month of fatherhood under my belt, I feel confident in saying, kids and dogs...not that different.  Having a dog made us more accountable.  A higher degree of planning is required for social outings and weekend getaways.  And yesterday, Gabe literally pooped on the carpet.

On the other hand, there isn't much more ridiculous than dressing dogs in people clothes.  Now that I have a son to spoil, the chances of me buying my dog a baseball jersey are hovering around 3%, down considerably from the 98% likelihood that existed in March.  So there's that.

I will replace as many pairs of flip-flops as it takes to maintain this exercise in balance because the most important responsibility I have is to raise my son to be the best, happiest person he can be, and I think there are certain lessons that are unique to the experience of having a great pet that you love and look after...unless it's a cat.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Summer's New Hobby

My wife has been an amateur photographer for just over 24 hours.  At this rate, she'll turn pro within a month.

Gabe doing his best Usain Bolt pose.  Needs work, but he'll get there.